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by Betsy Hays, environmental writer, home gardener, farmer and cook
Forks Over Knives (2011, Virgil Films & Entertainment) is a critically acclaimed documentary that engages the viewer in a dizzying, quantum leap over our cherished assumptions about eating, landing squarely in the realm of a whole-food, plant-based diet (yes, Virginia, this is a vegan manifesto). The movie connects the dots, supported by data and clinical studies performed separately over decades by two pioneering doctors, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and T.Colin Campbell, Ph.D., between America’s health epidemic and a way of eating with the power to heal chronic conditions.
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But it is! I not only watched this by myself with a huge grin on my face (despite, like many Americans, having a fondness for animal products, sweets and the cherished processed “foods” of my youth), but also recruited my husband to watch it again with me. We were astounded to discover indisputable evidence that heart disease, cancers and stroke, the country’s three leading causes of death, can be alleviated or even reversed through a plant-based diet and exercise.
Each of these doctors was destined to chart new territory in trying to get to the source of disease. Campbell, a nutritional scientist from Cornell University, and Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, conducted separate research that ultimately led them to the same conclusion, and to each other. This documentary is as much the story of two farm boys who bucked tradition and conventional wisdom to become proponents for healing through food, as it is a testament to their research.
But it’s the real life patients in Forks Over Knives whose stories of being freed from the tyranny of chronic illness and prescription drugs will grab at your heartstrings, giving hope for the many who suffer with these debilitating conditions. An informative website and links to many resources will keep all who want to be, connected to the advantages of a plant-based diet.
And for dessert, I suggest the delectable Local Flavors (Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmer’s Markets), by Deborah Madison (2002, Broadway Books), a book that is, as Michael Pollan (author of the groundbreaking, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) says on the cover, “Indispensable for everyone trying to eat locally and seasonally.”
Published in 2002 but newly available in paperback, Local Flavors offers a roadmap for shopping and cooking with local ingredients, tempting the reader with sumptuous photos by Laurie Smith and detailed recipes for using food that’s in season, fresh and wholesome. There is a joyful empowerment in making the connection between the food we prepare and the sources of those nourishing ingredients. There’s a reason the farmers markets have gotten so popular. And so, if you want gifts that inspire, enlighten and delight, any or all of these will do the trick!
Betsy Hays: www.betsyhays.com/
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